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Curraner hails 'calm' Kickhams

THE crowd was beginning to enter the stadium. The Donnycarney lights were sparkling. 'Anyone there for the wrist-bands.'

A perfect night for football. Chilly but dry. Standing room only in Parnell Park.

There must have been 8,000 at last night's Evening Herald Dublin SFC final.

They enjoyed a cracker, and they also enjoyed the Artane Band, who, like Ballymun, didn't miss a note.

The result was sweet music to Kickhams, champions for the first time since 1985.

They looked so fit. They brought such a tempo to the hour. They used the ball so well. When a Kilmacud player had possession, Ballymun were never short of re-enforcements.

On the final whistle, Dean Rock kicked the ball high into the stand. It was his only wild shot of an enchanting evening.

Ballymun players sunk to their knees in celebration. An outpouring of joy burst forth from the terraces and stand.

It took the Ballymun boss, Paul Curran, an age to reach the dressing-room. He had to engage in several press conferences.

"It's great for the club. I know what this will mean to the fellas because I was involved in three championship wins with my own club, Thomas Davis," reflected Paul.

"It will take a few days to sink in. We'll take a little while to enjoy it and let our hair down."

The Mun have earned their place in the sun. They went back training last year before their Christmas dinner.

"We began training on December 19th. We worked very hard in January and February. Fitness has to be a priority. You have to reach a certain level of fitness.

"And that's what carried us home in the end. Our backs were against the wall in the second half. I was worried Crokes might create a goal chance, but our lads held firm.

"We played some incredible stuff in the first half. We should have been further ahead at half-time. We knew Kilmacud would come back at us. They are like that. They did it against Brigid's in the semi-final.

"The important thing is that we didn't concede a goal in the second half. We managed to keep them out, and they didn't really create a goal chance.

"I knew if we could hit a couple of points on the break, we'd be able to stay in front. In that spell, they never got more than within two points of us. They pegged it back to two, but we brought it back to three."

The pace and precision of Ballymun's first half showing was top-of-the-class. Quick delivery into the forwards worked a treat. "The long, early ball can cause problems for any defence," remarked Paul.



Hope

It was 1989 when Kickhams last appeared in the final. Paul played on the Thomas Davis side that beat them that day.

"It was a bit similar to this final. Nobody gave Thomas Davis much hope. And not many thought Ballymun had a chance against Crokes except ourselves.

"We have a terrific bunch of players here. They are so committed. But they are also a very talented group.

"There's Dublin players who have won the All-Ireland. They have won two Dublin under-21 championships, a Division 1 league title and a St Vincent de Paul.

"They have a good record in finals. The problem in Dublin is that it's so difficult to reach the county final. It's a big ask.

"We were calm coming into the final, although we were playing the best team in the county over the last 15 years. It's a massive result for us, massive."

The Crokes chief, Hugh Kenny, added to the Ballymun applause. "They deserved it overall, and we congratulate them.

"We were second best in the first half. They were creating so many openings. We should have tracked them a bit better.

"Yet we were the better side after half-time, but we missed chances that we'd normally put away. We threw it away in the second half.

"Our fellas put in a huge effort this year. They deserved to be in the county final. It's disappointing to lose it. Of course it is, but Crokes are a fine club, they have young players coming through, so they'll be back again."

Hugh felt that Kilmacud should have had a point that was waved wide in the first period. "We felt sure it was a point. It's heartbreaking when you lose a county final by a point. There was only a kick of a ball in it at the end.

"But we didn't lose it because of the disallowed point. We lost it because of our first-half display and by missing six good scoring chances in the second half.

"It was a cracking match for the neutrals. Up and down, end to end. Some fine scoring. Ballymun hardly missed a chance when they got inside the 45."

And it was Deano who turned the contest into a real rock and roll show as he delivered a master-class in finishing, compiling a magnificent seven.

And it prompted Curraner to state that Dean's return to the Dublin squad is a "no-brainer."



immense

"We have all been saying he should be with Dublin. Some lads on the Dublin panel last year were, with all due respect, not in the same league as Dean.

"This was a very big year for him. He had a disappointing end to the championship for us last season and he was dropped off the Dublin panel in May.

"But Dublin's loss was our gain. He has been immense in league and championship, and he's one of the big reasons why we are champions now. He has to be in the Dublin squad," insists Paul.

The Ballymun boss also saluted the contribution of Jason Whelan, who made a heroic comeback during the campaign.

"Jason went to get a scan on his heart. The doctors told him not to play any football until they investigated the matter further," explains Paul.

"He missed our first championship match against Erin's Isle, and it wasn't looking good. We thought that might be the end of Jason's football career.

"But thankfully when the results came through, he was given the all-clear to carry on playing and he was fantastic tonight.

"Before the game, I told him just to go out and play because he's in bonus territory. He was just immense."

They all were.


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